I’ve been hearing buzz about Slack, a collaboration platform where your team can chat and work on documents together in real time, all in the cloud - so I gave it a try with one of my clients, a glass installation company in Dallas. According to Slack, they have “the fastest growing business application in history.” - Very bold statement!
First, if you’re not already familiar with the whole cloud concept yet, there are huge benefits to running software and storing data in the cloud, including lower startup costs, automatic backups, easier access for your remote employees, as well as ease of scalability for your entire company.
The old collaboration software my client was using ran off the server. The worst of having a server-based program is that if the server goes down or freezes, so does your method of internal communication. What was worse: setting up a remote user for the first time. Installations were needed, setting up a VPN and finally connecting the software to the company server at a remote location. I never looked forward to it. For my client, it was exactly the type of process that cost more money and only gave less in return.
The first thing I noticed about Slack was the immediate participation from my client’s employees. Possibly because of its social media-like feel, your employees will naturally enjoy and understand the interface. In this way, Slack helps foster camaraderie and builds a team-like dynamic, which managers will feel more in control of. This was an added benefit I didn’t expect.
We were able to get started with the free version so there was no money required to start using Slack. Team leaders can easily create what’s called “Channels” which are like separate chat rooms and can include all members of your team or only the employees you choose. You can also direct messages to a single employee.
Where Slack really shines is in its ability to view and work with documents, spreadsheets and images together as a team, in real time. This gives working together remotely (or from a different room) the feel of being in a live conference, complete with projector screen and notes on hand. The difference: instead of setting up your projector or big screen and meeting in a room down the hall, your connectivity to these resources are instant, and when needed - constant.
Thankfully, we didn’t have one thing go wrong with implementation. Employees took to the basics immediately, while special features such as “Pinning” a file or “Starring” a comment for quick reference may have taken a learning curve of two days.